Other buildings included the Dining Hall, a lovely stone building that had the misfortune of being built onto miss-fortified swamp ground. With the wooden pylons supporting the foundation shifting, it collapse not once or twice but three times before the university completely rebuilt its foundation. The Dining Hall is also the home of a unique Trinity tradition called the "Commons." Commons is a tradition in which "scholars" and "fellows" gather to eat, a formal, six course meal each night. The scholars are undergraduate students chosen through a rigorous academic test (taken on a voluntary basis Freshman year) and the fellows are professors chosen for their excellence in their fields. The meal is five courses long, including a soup, main course (with vegetarian options available), potato dish, vegetable dish, and desert. The meal finished when the last fellow is done eating, regardless of how far the scholars are along with their meals.
This tradition is one of the many interesting tidbits of history that remains at the school, which is clearly very proud of its lineage. The entire school has an air of prestige and custom about it. Each building has a specific character, both because of its appearance and its use.
Before heading off to see the Book of Kells and the library, we got to see the Rubrics Building, which holds some of the college dorms, the Reading Room, which is covered in amazing carvings and is now home to classrooms, the bell tower, and the "infamous lumpy cricket pitch," as our guide put it.
Without a doubt, this college has a different feel from the one we come from back in Denver. While I can see the benefits of both, the sheer contrast was what really amazed me. The difference between Trinity's traditional culture and exclusive nature (both for students and in relation to the city) and UCD's urban, modern feel and inclusive views on students and the entire city of Denver was staggering. Seeing a working school with five hundred year old buildings was just incredible. While I'm not sure the atmosphere is one I would like to live in every day, I could easily spend weeks admiring the campus and the amazing buildings and material it contains.
The Book of Kells is made of four volumes (each bound separately), with the four gospels of Matthew, John, Luke and Mark. This book was begun by monks on the island of Ionia in the 6th century, and was worked on util the 9th. Unfortunately, it was never completed, due to the frequent and violent viking attacks that decimated the monk population working on the text. The book traveled all of Ireland, Scotland, and England. It is made of vellum (calfskin) and took an estimated 185 calves' worth of skin to complete. The idea of the illuminated text is to create a work so beautiful and so intricate that people looking upon it would feel that there was no way it had been created by mere human hands. Despite the errors in the actual words, the art is so complex and lovely that, even looking at it today, it is not hard to see why people imagined it was created with divine intervention. The pages that introduce different parts of the book are ornate, colorful, and seem to move on their own with the hundreds of tiny spirals they contain. The pages of scripture have certain letters illustrated in minuscule, precise detail. These capitals often show various animals, and no two are the same.
Amusingly enough, the book contains numerous errors made by the monks transcribing it. Some words are misspelled and sometimes, extra pages were transcribed. Incorrect words are marked by three dots in a triangle, to inform the reader they are not right. The extra pages are marked with dainty, decorative red crosses, to alert people to skip over them, and various spacing mistakes were covered up by adding ornate animals between the lines. This book was definitely made to be a special-occasion, decorative piece rather than a practical one.
I've included some images of pages from the Book of Kells, taken by various photographers. We were not allowed to take photos of the book ourselves, though we did get to see the image of the portrait of John, or folio 291. These don't quite do the book justice, but you get the idea. (scroll over each image to see which folio it is and what it represents)
Trinity College is truly an amazing campus. the buildings here are all so amazing, both historically and architecturally. Perhaps even beyond that, each seems to have its own character, it's own unique feel. All of the buildings work together to create a place unlike any other.
We left the library, and, after a small class meeting, all set off in our own directions.